A key longstanding objective of the Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) research community is to enable the embedment of SHM systems in high value assets like aircraft to provide on-demand damage detection and evaluation. As against traditional non-destructive inspection hardware, embedded SHM systems must be compact, lightweight, low-power and sufficiently robust to survive exposure to severe in-flight operating conditions. Typical Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) systems can be bulky, costly and are often inflexible in their configuration and/or scalability, which militates against in-service deployment. Advances in electronics have resulted in ever smaller, cheaper and more reliable components that facilitate the development of compact and robust embedded SHM systems, including for Acousto-Ultrasonics (AU), a guided plate-wave inspection modality that has attracted strong interest due mainly to its capacity to furnish wide-area diagnostic coverage with a relatively low sensor density. This article provides a detailed description of the development, testing and demonstration of a new AU interrogation system called the Acousto Ultrasonic Structural health monitoring Array Module+
). This system provides independent actuation and sensing on four Piezoelectric Wafer Active Sensor (PWAS) elements with further sensing on four Positive Intrinsic Negative (PIN) photodiodes for intensity-based interrogation of Fiber Bragg Gratings (FBG). The paper details the development of a novel piezoelectric excitation amplifier, which, in conjunction with flexible acquisition-system architecture, seamlessly provides electromechanical impedance spectroscopy for PWAS diagnostics over the full instrument bandwidth of 50 KHz–5 MHz. The AUSAM+
functionality is accessed via a simple hardware object providing a myriad of custom software interfaces that can be adapted to suit the specific requirements of each individual application.
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